Running in place on a treadmill can get a bit, well, boring. The same goes for weight training. In fact, it's exercises like those that have kept me out of the Rec Center for the better part of my college career. When all I'm doing is running or lifting weights, working out often feels too much like work, something I'd rather not spend my free time doing.

But I've recently rediscovered an old passion of mine, one that eliminates the monotony of most gym workouts: rock climbing.

In high school I used to ride my bike 60 minutes each way to the nearest rock climbing gym. Today I live two blocks away from a similar facility, the Wade King Student Recreation Center. In addition to its treadmills and weight machines, the campus gym offers students a chance to break into the sport of rock climbing with its 3,300 square feet of climbing facilities.

According to the Colorado-based American Sport Climbers Federation, rock climbing two or more times a week improves your strength, muscular and cardiovascular endurance, flexibility and mental toughness.

Climbing Coordinator Aislinn Ronaghan echoes that belief, saying that rock climbing is unlike any other activity one could pursue at the Rec Center.

“Climbing, as a sport itself, stimulates both the physical body and the mental body.
It's much more of a finesse kind of activity than anything else. It works your core, legs, arms and fingers…even the hairs on your arms. It's pretty amazing,” she said.

Students wanting to try their hands and feet at rock climbing needn't worry about the technical aspect of the sport just yet. All you need is a pair of rock climbing shoes and some hand chalk and you're ready to hit the bouldering wall, where rope and other protection aren't necessary.

So next time you're looking for a new workout, bring a little cash with you to the gym and rent a pair of climbing shoes at the equipment desk. They only cost $4 per session and who knows, you may get addicted once you hit the wall for the first time.

And don't worry if you've never climbed before. Nearly anyone can find an exciting personal challenge in climbing, said Climbing Instructor Chris Wheeler.

“Climbing really promotes full body strength. It requires a commitment to body tension—you have to be able to keep your entire core, arms and legs functioning together through difficult moves,” he said. “Plus, it's extremely rewarding.”

Roped climbing involves long routes, up to heights of 30 feet in the Rec Center, and tends to demand a large amount of endurance over a long period of time.
Bouldering instead focuses on short sequences of moves in which power, strength and balance are key, and ropes are replaced with thick foam pads to cushion any falls off the wall.

For new climbers or those looking for a bit of climbing advice, the Rec Center keeps two student employees on the job at all times to assist climbers in their workouts.

“Part of their job description is to interact with students, especially new climbers, to help them work on technique and improve, figuring out how to use their bodies more efficiently in order to finish problems,” Ronaghan said.

The deeper one delves into rock climbing, the more technical and potentially dangerous the sport becomes. For those wishing to up the ante a bit, the Rec Center offers numerous bouldering and rope-climbing classes, from lead climbing and top roping lessons to spotting and falling clinics.

Check out the Campus Recreation Services Web site at www.wwu.edu/campusrec for a complete list of upcoming climbing classes and costs.